One of the best surprises in my overstuffed post box this week was a couple of copies of Robert Shail’s new edited collection Seventies British Cinema. We often think of the 70s as an embarrassing period for British film-making, encrusted as it is with memories of a red-cheeked Robin Askwith covered in bubble bath, and the slow deaths of Hammer Films and the Carry On series, two “national institutions” who ended their days like pervy grandads grasping at their last handfuls of boob in an effort to keep up with a domestic film industry propped up by a proliferation of slapped-arse soft porn and sitcom adaptations. This book doesn’t deny the prominence of crap movies in 70s Britain, but it does take them seriously as historically interesting cultural products. Before Merchant-Ivory got their hands on the steering wheel of Britain’s iconographic milk-float (“And the award for the clumsiest metaphor of 2008 goes to…”), Confessions of a Window Cleaner was the go-to movie for a transparent, unvarnished vision of a n English town centre. But that’s the only nice thing I can think of to say about it, so I’m hoping that Shail’s book can give me some insight into its historical, perhaps even its textual worth. Having added Seventies British Cinema to my Christmas reading pile alongside the second edition of Peter Hames’ The Cinema of Jan Švankmajer and Jose Saramago’s Blindness (must read before movie comes out…), I’m particularly looking forward to I.Q. Hunter’s chapter on sexploitation, James Chapman on Brit cinema’s “Lost Worlds” (hey, I grew up on a diet of rubbery pterodactyls!), Sarah Street on Agatha Christie adaptations, and Paul Newland on “Folksploitation”. Other readers might also notice my contribution of a chapter about Don Boyd and Boyd’s Co.
On a related note, I’ve noticed that Robert Shail’s other recent publication, Stanley Baker: A Life in Film has been selling like diesel-soaked hot cakes, if the Cardiff branch of Borders is anything to go by! Steady on, Rob – it’s unseemly for an academic to be seen to be shifting so many books in one go… [can’t bring myself to insert a wink icon, but you get the picture]
A Merry Christmas to all readers of Spectacular Attractions. Thanks for visiting and checking out my blog. It started as an experiment, but I feel a bit more established now and I’m looking forward to keeping it going next year as a teaching tool and a repository for ideas in progress.I’ve had an especially busy teaching schedule this semester, but next year will be much lighter, so I’ll have more time to flood these pages with works-in-progress. I’ve had my heart set on a big study of puppetry and film for a long time now, but 2009 will be the year it kicks into gear. Really. I mean it this time.